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Monitoring our forests from space

Newfoundland and Labrador-based C-CORE is building technology to help the European Space Agency (ESA) produce the first 3D views of our forests. Slated for launch in 2021, Biomass, the European Space Agency's forest mission, will provide information on the current state of our forests to help us understand how they are changing over time and gain insight into the role they play in the carbon cycle.

While satellites have been used in the past to collect information on the height and density of forests worldwide, Biomass will go further by delivering accurate maps (with a resolution of 200 metres) of tropical, temperate and boreal forests. This is an unprecedented task, one that can only be performed from space. The mission will also have an experimental tomographic phase that will provide, for the first time, three-dimensional views of our forests. During its five years of operations, Biomass will witness the wooded areas going through at least eight growth cycles. Observations from this mission will also provide essential support to United Nations treaties on the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Canadian technology will play a key role in assuring the quality of the data collected by Biomass. Airbus Defence and Space Ltd., the main contractor of this mission, recently awarded a $9.6 million contract to Canadian company C-CORE for the design, development, production, delivery and installation of a calibration transponder. A transponder is a device that receives and transmits radio signals at a prearranged frequency range. Measuring over 8 metres in diameter, the calibration transponder, built at C-CORE's facility in St. John's, Newfoundland, will be installed somewhere near the geomagnetic equator as part of the ground equipment. Once operational, the transponder will continuously transmit precise measured signals to the satellite. The monitoring of this back-and-forth communication is critical, as it allows one to determine the health of the satellite and the accuracy of its measurements. Calibration transponders play a key role in ensuring the quality and precision of data collected by satellites. Recognized worldwide as a leader in this field, C-CORE will innovate by building a transponder equipped with a self-calibrating feature, making it the most accurate satellite calibration transponder in the world.

C-CORE was awarded this contract under the Canada-ESA Cooperation Agreement, which enables Canadian organizations to participate in ESA programs and activities, including space missions.

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